Once again, I’m overwhelmed by quinces. My one little tree is groaning under the weight. I’ve succeeded in giving a fair amount away, but am loathe to leave those that haven’t already gone into chutney, jelly and cotognata to rot on the tree. So I’ve been busy devising other uses. I love having a pot of this compote in the fridge, to eat a spoonful as fruit whenever I need a snack. But it’s good as an icecream topping or with a big dollop of plain yoghurt too: it’s very versatile.
Quinces – 8 large
Orange – 1
Lemon – 1
Sugar – 2 tbps
Scrub a large orange well and grate off the peel. Squeeze the juice from the orange and lemon and place it, and the grated peel, in a saucepan large enough to hold the quinces.
Now the arduous bit begins. Quinces are the hardest fruit: cutting them up will tone your arm muscles beautifully. Peel the fruit, cut it into quarters with the largest, sharpest knife you possess; then with a smaller but equally sharp knife, remove the core and cut the cleaned fruit into something between slices and chunks, straight into the orange and lemon juice. Stir the fruit from time to time to coat it with the citrus juice: this will stop it from going brown.
You can begin cooking the fruit over a lowish heat when you’ve cleaned about half of it, adding the rest to the saucepan as you go. Remember to stir the fruit from time to time: quince is quick to stick to the bottom. You’ll probably need to add some water as you cook; add it gradually and don’t make the mix too liquid.
It shouldn’t take too long for the fruit to go soft: maybe 20 minutes, depending on your quinces. When the pieces disintegrate if you push them against the side of the saucepan with a wooden spoon, add the sugar and continue cooking for a few minutes until it has dissolved. (I’ve said two tablespoons of sugar, but this is a matter of taste: you may prefer the fruit with none at all, or you may prefer it far sweeter.)
Off the heat, whizz the fruit to a smooth paste with a stick blender. The compote should stand in a peak, rather than ooze about, when you drop a lump on to a plate – then again it’s all a matter of taste and, of course, intended use. If it comes out runny, you can put the saucepan back on the heat and reduce it slowly to the required thickness but don’t forget: stir it constantly, otherwise you’ll find yourself with charred quince toffee.
©Anne Hanley, 2015